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In Search [Episode 41]: Thinking about Your Blog from an SEO Perspective





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SEO Community Question #41







Summary of Episode 41: The In Search SEO Podcast 




In Search SEO Banner 41



Get ready and get set as Matthew Woodward joins us as we get into your blog’s performance.

  • How to decide on your blog’s identity & purpose (and find your niche)!
  • Being active & out there in order to find the right topics for your blog
  • Where and how does SEO fit into your blog’s success?

Plus, we take a data-filled look at Google’s core updates to see if they are really that much more impactful than your run-of-the-mill Google algorithm update.



Are Google’s Confirmed Core Updates Really That Much More Powerful Than Unconfirmed Algorithm Updates? [00:03:36 - 00:19:13] 



We’ve talked about the idea that we fawn over Google’s confirmed core updates a bit too much at the expense of the unconfirmed updates (see the episode of the podcast where we spoke to Dan Petrovic). So today we want to expand on that idea through data!

To get a sense if Google’s confirmed updates are truly significantly more impactful than unconfirmed updates, Mordy analyzed the rank volatility of the past three updates, the Medic 2018, the March 2019, and the June 2019 core updates, and compared them to the last three unconfirmed updates (at least the significant ones). Specifically, he looked at the unconfirmed updates that both preceded and followed the March 2019 Core Update as well as the more recent July 2019 unconfirmed update.

We didn’t count the minor updates that happen every few weeks since their rank volatility is relatively minimal on our rank fluctuations weather tool, the Rank Risk Index. Obviously, those minor updates are not going to be as impactful as a core update so we took a look at only the most notable unconfirmed updates.

So Mordy compared these updates and guess what he found? …Rank volatility over the top 3 positions was noticeably more volatile during a core update than during the average unconfirmed update.

There is a "but” to this data. Specifically, there were cases where the overall volatility among the top 3 results approached and even surpassed some of the rank volatility seen during the March and June core updates.

However, looking at the top 10 results on the SERP overall, the rank fluctuations seen during the confirmed core algorithm updates and the unconfirmed updates are both in the same ballpark.

Here’s just a bit of data to help qualify things a bit. The overall volatility increase for the top 10 results during the June 2019 update was 62%. The overall average volume increase during the unconfirmed update in April, the one that followed the March 2019 core update was 51%. That’s only an 11 point difference, which puts them in the same ballpark.

If you go into specific niches though, some of the niches saw way more rank volatility upticks during the unconfirmed updates. For example, the top 10 results within the Retail niche saw a rank fluctuation increase of 25% during the June 2019 core update while during the April unconfirmed update, that same niche saw a 43% increase among the top 10 results.

So if you go niche by niche among the top 10 results you can find multiple instances where the unconfirmed updates were way more impactful on the rankings than the core updates which Google confirms.

By the way, the fact that you see the unconfirmed updates’ rank fluctuations catch up to the core updates when looking at positions 1 - 10, as opposed to just the top 3 results, means that positions 4 - 10 are basically making up the difference. Meaning, we would imagine that if you looked at just positions 4 - 10 you would see a narrowing in the gap between the confirmed and unconfirmed updates. This is not a metric we tracked, but it makes sense.

In any case, Mordy noted that he is not against the industry putting more emphasis on the core updates versus the unconfirmed updates. Rather, he opposes the general trend of pretty much turning the unconfirmed updates into second class citizens solely because Google didn’t confirm them.

But there is a reason why Google confirms the core updates. There is something special about them. Just look at all the patterns, trends, and insights we pull out of them. In Mordy’s opinion, it’s far easier to pull that data, those trends, out of a core update than the unconfirmed updates. The core updates are very revealing. All that good data we gathered on authority and how Google looks at sites came from focusing on the core updates. It’s not all about "rank impact” but what you can learn from the updates and the core updates are crazy awesome for that.

Finally, for more data on this and a bit of deeper look on the points we touched on here, you can head over to Search Engine Land and see Mordy’s recent article.



Thinking About Your Blog’s Success from an SEO Perspective: A Conversation with Matthew Woodward [00:19:13 - 00:54:33] 



[This is a general summary of the interview and not a word for word transcript. You can listen to the podcast for the full interview.]

Mordy: Welcome to another In Search SEO Podcast interview exclusive. He is a prolific producer of SEO content, I would go so far as to dub him the king of the SEO tutorial, he is Matthew Woodward!

Welcome!

Matthew: Thanks for having me and for that warm introduction.

MO: My pleasure. Let’s start with telling us what you do and how you got into the business of creating so many SEO tutorials.

MW: So I’ve been playing with computers and the internet for a while, way before YouTube. I’ve been involved in SEO for more than half of my life. Pivoting into SEO tutorials, I was looking into different forums and saw pretty terrible advice being shared. So I thought if I can just share with people my ideas then that would be helpful. I got a great reception starting with the tiered link building videos, and it just skyrocketed from there.

MO: Wow and those are amazing videos.

Let’s get started here. Is there a difference between strategically thinking about your blog versus strategically thinking about your landing pages?

MW: People put labels on different types of pages but for me, every page obviously has a purpose. E-commerce pages are for buying products, landing pages are often to grab an email address, and blog posts can be used for content. But they all support each other. A blog post can generate a lead or a sale. So instead of treating them individually, I treat them as which action do they align to the business and from there decide on what to rank. Sometimes an informational content page is generating a lot of leads and we’ll want to rank it higher. Rather than looking at things differently, I take a harmonic look at the structure.

MO: I’m a big believer that your blog has to have a very solid core identity. I think it’s all the more important because Google is profiling sites according to their identity:

How much of your blog’s traffic is a direct result of the strong profile you build for it?

MW: Identity for my blog was something I was struggling with earlier as it started as an SEO blog and then I started publishing other things like email marketing and social media which alienated my original core audience. So I brought that back on track to focus on SEO and its roots. There is an importance to having a core purpose. The purpose of my blog is to create the best SEO tutorials on the planet. So the identity of the blog mixes in with my personality. I’m very direct, short and sweet, not too much fluff, and that’s communicated through the personality of the site. That’s for me, but the purpose of your blog, for example, is to gain leads, obviously, but it also can be used to solve every rank tracking problem on the planet. So it’s not an identity, it’s a purpose that you need when creating content.

MO: How do you decide on what your blog’s identity should be, and how do you make sure it totally aligns to what your site does overall? In other words, how do you understand the format of your content?

(To clarify, I don’t mean how do you decide on what you write about topically, that’s easy. But say you’re a sports news site. Your blog could focus on player interviews, it could focus on sports analysis, it could focus on authority building by doing some sports research, etc.)

MW: I started with a video tutorial on tiered link building using video capture and in that case, it was the perfect medium. I had exactly those videos translated into text, but people only used them for reference, not to learn the process. In that example video was the way to go, but that doesn’t mean video is always the way to go.

One way to know what format to use is through feedback. I get hundreds or thousands of comments to my blogs and I listen to and learn from the feedback. My audience told me they want to learn from video and text.

So I would advise to first observe what you should write about, listen to feedback, and then refine your overall process and format. It’s a real process but as long as you keep your core goal/purpose in mind as you’re creating it that will save you learning a lot of lessons the hard way.

MO: For me personally, when I write I sometimes have two different goals in mind. One is when it’s a high volume topic where I know about it and I can write my unique take on it. The other is a topic I know will be linked well and while it may not get a lot of traffic initially as it doesn’t hit the high volume keywords, it will help build authority.

MW: Right, your first thing about having a unique take is about 80% of what I do.

Last week, I was playing around with FAQ rich snippets and I found out that I can instantly increase the visibility of a keyword and instantly increase its chances of appearing in a Featured Snippet and push it up to the first page of results all by just adding a little code to your page. The most extreme example took a keyword from position 12 to position 9. After three days, it took the Featured Snippet box.

If I go out and Google ‘FAQ rich snippets’ I’ll see there’s no one searching it, no search volume. So that will be in a format which I’m literally going to publish today. I think it’s the best SEO hack of 2019.

This content doesn’t have much search volume but it is going to attract a lot of attention from the entire niche. I could have looked at this and thought it has very little search volume and to forget it, but that’s the old SEO approach.

MO: Since we’re on the topic of FAQs, we just started tracking the markup about 2-3 weeks ago. We saw that the average SERP has FAQ markup within just one result per page on average.

MW: Right, and even if you don’t see immediate rankings you are getting huge real estate on the SERP. And of course, it works because we’re giving Google what they want.

MO: If you did a search about how to increase traffic to your blog you will see suggestions of targeting your audience. It sounds really easy, but in actuality, it’s really hard. What are some concrete ways you can go about doing that effectively?

MW: It depends. The way I learn about my audience is I join communities, observe, listen, and watch. And more or less most audiences suffer from very similar problems, concerns, or fears. In the SEO world, you can categorize it to link building. So just grab a coffee, open your laptop, and browse some forums or Facebook groups, get involved, answer some questions, ask some questions, see how people respond and react, and you’ll get a good feeling for it. The SEO niche can be pretty brutal.

MO: That’s right, being active is so important.

In case you couldn’t tell I think a lot of your blog traffic comes from your blog’s strategy vs. your on-page optimization…. Do you agree or disagree with that notion?

MW: The first thing that people miss out on that when writing content is that you have to write it for humans before you can make it relevant for search engines. You’ve got to have human-friendly content before you have SEO friendly content.

MO: Can you tell me about your blog and how it’s a famous case study?

MW: I built my blog with zero link building. SEO all the way. Content, links, boom. This was an experiment. If I just listened to what Google said instead of trying to game them. In other words, If I just focused on quality content, what happens? And what happens is you create a 7-figure blog that wins a ton of awards.

There’s a case study of that on my blog where I published an income report every month from Day Zero up until the point it crossed the $1.2 million mark... for years documenting what I did, why I did it, how I did it, where the traffic came from, why I published it, where the income came from, and where all the expenses went. There’s about 60 of them for every month.

MO: Out of all the recordings and writing of your blog, what are the main takeaways of what went right and what you should do?

MW: Always focus on the human. It’s very easy to look at Google’s numbers and forget that behind those numbers are real people with real experiences and the content you’ve written is being processed in their brain and they’re having a genuine thought about it. It’s very easy to be disconnected from that when looking at the numbers and when writing content. You’ve got to keep the human in mind. The human is going to share the content, the human will tell their friends about it, the human will pull their credit cards out and make you that sale. That’s the first priority.

MO: Yeah, and people should understand that it takes some time for a blog that’s starting out to get up there and get traffic. And when you do grow you will have posts where some are hits and some are misses, but not every miss is really a miss. You need to think qualitatively. If you get a Featured Snippet, it may not mean that you’ll get more traffic but it does bring a sense of authority to your site. Not everything has to be judged solely on traffic.

MW: The favorite thing of my blog is the testimonials page. In my email sequence, after you’ve been on my list for 7 months and are still opening my emails, I ask for a testimonial. And it’s incredible what people write. "Now I have 35,000 visitors a month.” "I took my business from $50,000 to $200,000.” That’s the real metric for me. How many people have you had a measurable impact on.

MO: Yeah, as you could have a million people come to your site, leave, and don’t care. That’s not really what you want.

MW: Right, because that doesn’t align to the goal or mission of the blog.

MO: Right. I’d rather have one major influencer see the blog, take an interest, and make a connection.

MW: Sometimes you don’t even know who you’re helping.

MO: Right because eventually, it turns around.

MW: And that’s why you should focus on the people. Just focus on connecting people’s problems with solutions. If you do that, you will see success.

MO: To end off, could you just give us your least cliche piece of blog traffic building advice? What should you consider when starting a blog, or trying to maintain a blog, or trying to create wind/momentum with your blog?

MW: When people are starting out, they are so distracted in getting traffic and links that they don’t put a foundational effort into the content - not just something that Google will love but that humans will love. And that foundation will be different in each niche. You’ve got to have the base foundation content that supports your blog’s overall mission before you go out there start shouting about it.

If you passed that stage and are now trying to grow your blog, you have to take a step back and ask, "What content worked, what content got no response, what are people talking about now, are there monetization opportunities, could I post reviews, and could I post commercial content?” Those are the kind of questions you ask when you’re trying to grow the blog.

MO: Yeah, and these are all things which you shouldn’t be thinking of when you’re starting the blog.

MW: Exactly. A lot of it you can’t do because you haven’t had the failures yet.


Optimize It or Disavow It

MO: Choosing just one…. Zero-sum… would you rather have a poorly written yet wonderfully optimized post or a post that’s really a literary marvel but an SEO mess?

MW: Let me ask you. What keyword density did Shakespeare have?

MO: I don’t think he had to worry about that.

MW: And that’s exactly why I’d write it for humans. You got to write content for the human before you write it for the search engines. You can’t do it the other way around.

MO: Thank you, Matt, for coming on. I really appreciate it.

MW: Thanks for having me.




SEO News [00:56:33 - 00:59:33]

Google Experiencing Indexing Issues Again: Google is having issues indexing new content. No… we’re not repeating an old story. This is a new problem with new content. Google confirmed that again it is having an issue with indexing some newly released content.

Google Deprecating Accelerated Delivery for Google Ads: Accelerated ad delivery will soon be no more. As of Oct. 1st, you will be stuck with standard delivery for your Google Ads.

Google Advises Specifying If a Doctor Reviewed Your Medical Content: Google says if a doctor reviewed your medical content you should say so.

Video Results Appearing in People Also Ask Box: It looks like Google is starting to put video content within the People Also Ask results!

Custom Javascript is Now Available for AMP: To all those that use AMP, you can now add custom Javascript to AMP pages!




Fun SEO Send-Off Question [00:59:33 - 01:03:17]



If Google won the lottery, what would it use the money for? 


For Mordy, he believes that Google is too rich to care about a mere few million! Sapir protested the question for whatever unnamed reason…. So to get another take, the team brought in the editor of the podcast, who in fact wrote the question, Levi Genesove. Levi answered that since Google is constantly in need of updating itself, the first thing Google will do is get cosmetic surgery. A smaller nose, a facelift, teeth whitening, anything to make it more perfect.

Tune in next Tuesday for a new episode of The In Search SEO Podcast.

About The Author
Rank Ranger is an SEO Platform designed to standardize management and reporting for the digital marketing world by filling the need for a comprehensive online marketing platform capable of tracking & monitoring campaign data, integrated with 3rd party software and services, providing fully personalized and customized reporting, 100% white label automated reports and a branded web interface.




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